It is finally Super Bowl week. The Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots will be facing off on Sunday evening to determine the winner of Super Bowl LIII. Let’s look at the breakdowns for each position on the field for Sunday’s game. While simply having more talent doesn’t guarantee victory because football is the ultimate team sport, position breakdowns show the strengths and weaknesses of each team entering this game.
Here are the position breakdowns comparing the Pats to the Rams;
Quarterback (Edge: Patriots)
The old vs the young. The proven vs the unproven. Tom Brady vs Jared Goff. This comparison is pretty straightforward, especially considering how Tom Brady (like always) has elevated himself in the playoffs. He was a surgeon against the Chargers, picking apart their secondary with ease. And while he threw two interceptions against the Chiefs, the Pats longtime quarterback was clutch as always. Brady is getting the ball out as quickly as ever and continues to methodically break down defenses.
Goff, on the other hand, has been inconsistent for the majority the second half of the season, including his two playoff games. While he has missed some throws, the Rams quarterback has also dropped in some beautiful passes in key situations. Goff will need to be his best self on Sunday evening for LA to have a good chance of winning the game.
Running Back (Edge: Rams)
Sure, Todd Gurley hasn’t been his normal self as of recent games, but having arguably the best running back in football gives Los Angeles the clear edge here. On top of the back to back first-team All-Pro, late-season pickup C.J. Anderson has been terrific since the Rams signed him, with three 120+ yard rushing games. In Anderson’s own words, he is “the freshest running back in the NFL,” since he had not played much before LA picked him up.
On the other side, James White always plays his best in the playoffs and especially the Super Bowl. Over the last two Super Bowls, he has four touchdowns. This postseason, Sony Michel has been incredible with over 100 yards rushing in both games and a total of five rushing touchdowns. This duo will certainly make an impact in the big game.
Wide Receivers (Edge: Rams)
Ironically, the biggest reason the Rams have an edge here is that they traded for receiver Brandin Cooks from New England this past offseason. Cooks exited the game early in the second quarter of last year’s Super Bowl after a hit by Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins. He is looking to make a bigger impact this time around against his former team. Robert Woods has also been a great all-around receiver for LA. He has over 1,200 yards receiving, is a great blocking receiver, and even has 197 rushing yards on the season.
For New England, their only consistent receiver is Julian Edelman. But Edelman is a great option considering he has the second most playoff receptions ever and will most likely have the second most postseason receiving yards after the Super Bowl. That’s right, outside of the great Jerry Rice and probably Larry Fitzgerald, Edelman may be the greatest playoff receiver ever. He will be Tom Brady’s go-to option throughout the game.
Offensive Line (Edge: Patriots)
Both of these offensive lines are great at protecting their quarterback as well as creating holes in the running game. But New England’s offensive line is just a tick better because they are better at consistently giving their quarterback a couple seconds to get the ball out. The Rams O-line is good, but once in a while it has lapses and allows the defense to collapse on Goff.
Tight End (Edge: Patriots)
This isn’t as much of a no-brainer as it looks on paper. Rob Gronkowski has been struggling to make a big impact in the passing game recently. However, he did make a number of clutch catches in the AFC Championship, including two third-down conversions on the game-winning drive in overtime. In addition, Gronk is still a dominant force in the run-block aspect of the game.
Rams tight ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett aren’t exactly what we would call stars, but can definitely make some catches throughout the game. Both were important last game as Higbee caught a touchdown against the Saints. Everett had two catches for fifty yards, including a 39-yard catch and run on a game-tying drive in the fourth quarter.
Defensive Line (Edge: Rams)
When it comes to pass rushers that truly put fear in the opposing quarterback’s eyes, New England really only has the underrated Trey Flowers. Malcolm Brown, their top defensive tackle, is a good run stuffer.
But the Rams defense absolutely dominates at the line of scrimmage. Returning and likely to repeat Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald had 20.5 sacks this season as an interior lineman. That is unheard of from an interior defensive lineman. Ndamukong Suh had been relatively quiet all season, but showed out in against the Cowboys and Saints with timely pressures. Speaking of timely pressures, midseason pick-up Dante Fowler Jr. had a huge hurry of Drew Brees last week, forcing an eventual game-winning interception. If the Rams win the Super Bowl, chances are the defensive line will have something to do with it.
Linebackers (Edge: Patriots)
Dont’a Hightower is one of the most underrated players in the league. People mention Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner as the best linebackers in football, but Hightower has something to say about that.
He always makes huge plays in the biggest moments. In Super Bowl XLIX, he tackled Marshawn Lynch at the one-yard line to prevent a potential game-winning touchdown. In Super Bowl LI, he strip-sacked Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, a huge play in the Patriots’ comeback victory. Hightower will make a key defensive play in this game. On the other side of the linebacking corps, Kyle Van Noy has been great all-around this year. He has been stopping the run, covering the pass and even getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
This is the only part of the Rams defense that doesn’t have star power. However, players like Corey Littleton and Samson Ebukam (who had two touchdowns against the Chiefs earlier this season), have shown flashes of playmaking ability. This isn’t a bad unit by any means, but just isn’t on the level of the Patriots linebacking group.
Secondary (Edge: Rams)
This is probably the closest matchup to pick out of all the positional battles, but the Rams get the edge because they have more talent. New England has 2018 first-team All-Pro Stephon Gilmore and multiple time Pro-Bowler Devin McCourty (as well as his twin Jason, a solid cornerback) locking down the passing game.
But the Rams secondary has been even better since Aqib Talib returned from injury. Marcus Peters’ struggles have gone way down as he has been able to shut down opposing number two receivers. Further, safety Lamarcus Joyner at safety and Sam Shields in the slot make this the most talented secondary in football. Even second safety John Johnson III made a game-altering interception last week in overtime of the NFC Championship. (Oh and cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman can get away with Pass Interference calls, so there’s that.)
Altogether, the Patriots and Rams each won four positional breakdowns, showing how even this game is. While Bill Belichick certainly gets the coaching edge, Sean McVay has proven he can dial up some terrific offensive play-calling. This game should be entertaining and, as do all Patriots Super Bowls, should come down to the wire.
Featured image by Sporting News
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